Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Thrilling Thrillers

National Public Radio is compiling a list of 100 best thrillers. They've put together a list of almost 200 choices, from which you can vote for your ten favorites. Voting ends today, July 28, so if you read this post and still have time to go vote, here is the link. I'm sorry I didn't publicize this sooner. Here are my choices, in order of publication date (but not the order in which I read them -- that I cannot really remember).

Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurer: 1938
The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith: 1955
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote: 1966
The Salzburg Connection by Helen MacInnes: 1968
Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth: 1971
Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett: 1978
Shibumi by Trevanian: 1979
Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith: 1981
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton: 1990
The Likeness by Tana French: 2008

Half the books on my list were written in the 1960's and 1970s, which reveals to me that my peak thriller-reading years were the 1970's. I would lump Gorky Park in with the 60's/70's titles as well, since it's a very cold war era book. Only two of my choices were published after 1981. I really do think this reflects my declining interest in the genre rather than the fact that no good thrillers were published during the last 30 years. In fact, I can think of a few more recent titles that I'm surprised didn't make the list. For example, I would have included (and would have voted for) Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I was also surprised not to find any books by Barbara Vine, queen of the psychological thriller.

I have very specific memories of some of these books. Here is one: I know that I read In Cold Blood in 1976 while on a summer vacation with my family. I found the book so gripping that I insisted on reading it straight through until I finished it, and refused to leave our rented cabin until I was done. I remember my frustrated mother arguing with me that I could "read any time" and that I should be off swimming in the lake instead of holed up inside, which in retrospect is ironic, since my mother probably wanted me out in the lake so that she herself could get back to her reading.

And one more memory: In Shibumi, the hero is a master of an obscure* (and certainly fictional) martial art called Naked Kill. For some reason I thought this was hilarious and for years made bad jokes about it which no one else got. I remember I told someone not that long ago that I was sure Dick Cheney was also a skilled practitioner of this art but received only a blank look in return. Oh well.

*See Jonathan's excellent description of this art in the comments.


Anonymous said...

The actual art in question is hadaka-korosu (called hodu-korosu) in the novel SHIBUMI. It means 'art of the naked kill', and it's a genuine sub-science of many forms of jujutsu, aikijutsu, kenjutsu,and kobujutsu.

'Naked Kill' refers to the use of commonplace objects (pens, a belt, keys, etc.) as weapons rather than conventional items such as a sword or gun.

Many modern self-defense systems, particularly those designed for women,the physically challenged or the elderly rely on concepts drawn from hadaka-korosu.

The concept of 'Shibumi' from which Trevanian's novel takes its name is an unrelated concept. Shibumi is a philosophic concept which describes a state of 'effortless perfection'. A very Zen way of saying 'being in th zone'.

-Jonathan Maberry

herschelian said...

Wow Jonathan, I was going to leave a flippant comment about Dick Cheney but then I read your comment and felt a bit sheepish. There is so much in life I don't know. I am now keen to read 'Shibumi'
As to the 'Thrilling Thrillers' how could they leave Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine off the long list?

Ruthiella said...

I saw this list on NPR's web site, but it was just to overwhelmingly long for me to try and vote. Too many books I had not read. And while "In Cold Blood" was a page turner and I loved "Rebecca, I wouldn't consider either a "thriller".

Anonymous said...

I have been looking for a book I read in the 1970s
it was about a man who lost his wife when while sailing .an oil tanker plowed through them.he then set out to find captain o'gilvey (i think) and the tanker.along the way he meets a black woman who helps him. this author wrote many books after and i enjoyed all.but now I can't remember his name.HELP. love your site

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